Start-up Strategy

BMW and Enzyte may have too much in common. While reviewing course materials for the CEO Marketing Boot Camp, I got a case of giggles. In the class we mention how BMW does branding. BMW has a legendary brand that was anything but accidental. In fact most readers can recite the BMW slogan from memory and yet never question it. That is how good BMW is at defining and communicating their brand — they have us all educated and convinced. The BMW slogan is interesting to marketing experts because it never mentions automobiles or technology (and BMWs are technology products). BMW claims to provide the “ultimate driving experience.” Ultimate means the best. Driving is a largely male oriented passion. Experiences are what we live for. So BMW offers a greatly enhanced male life, just like Enzyte claims. I’m sure the people at BMW are not happy about this comparison because … Continue reading

Locked-in

Lock-in as a marketing strategy is alive, well, and unfortunately growing. For dot-communists and those raised in the era of Linux, vendor lock-in is the art of keeping customers captive. By making people commit to a technology, and thus raising the pain of switching away from said technology, vendors cause customers to linger even when they do not want to. I know CIOs who for decades have blustered against Cognos and being locked into stiff annual license fees for PowerHouse, Cognos’ ancient 4GL. Yet they pay the fee every year knowing that rewriting thousands of lines of PowerHouse code is pretty pricy too. Another variation of vendor lock-in is commonly called upgrade robbery. I encountered such a scam this week when I noticed my ancient (circa 2003) smartphone buttons started to stick. In order to upgrade to a newer smartphone, AT&T insists that I buy $720 worth of wireless data … Continue reading

Cool Smarts

Who would have thought Microsoft could be cool? Not Microsoft the company, the product line or substandard tech support. No, Microsoft marketing is cool because they engineered a reverse promotion campaign that leveraged a competitor’s positioning, used it to attack their weakness and amplify a Microsoft strength all in one sweep. That’s cool. Anyone with a pulse is familiar with the great ad campaign designed by Apple, pitting a dowdy looking actor as a generic PC, and a young hipster (Justin Long in real life) as a Mac. Justin played the Mac role as low key, friendly, effective, peaceable and, in a sub dude way, cool. Justin was also the voice of Alvin in Alvin and the Chipmunks, so we have to subtract three ‘cool points’. For a company built primarily on image and vendor lock-in, Apple did a great job. Their ads were memorable and also provided a method … Continue reading

Plateau Predicaments

Many clients have come to me complaining that they hit a plateau – that sales and profits had quit growing. We have helped many of our clients identify the barriers they faced and navigate to new levels of success. Others remained stuck, mainly because they were too stubborn to listen. It is common for start-ups to hit seemingly invisible plateaus. Like a rock climber on a virgin cliff, they cannot see their way around outcroppings and boulders, and they aren’t agile enough to dodge eagle droppings hurtling in their direction. In nearly every case, these plateaus are artificial and solvable, though the very genius that launched the company is often the plateau itself. I offer as example one client we initially engaged six years ago. Silicon Strategies Marketing performed some primary (and I dare say groundbreaking) research into the psychology of their targeted buyers. Throughout the research, one variable was … Continue reading

Service Marketing

“Sometimes you have to get their attention first,” said the old farmer, who had just whacked his mule in the forehead with a two-by-four. The mule, a little stunned, nonetheless quit being ornery and started pulling the plow. Perhaps Dell has some mule blood in it. Dell is discovering what green marketeers discover in about their forth year of their careers — namely that service is a product. Like all products, quality and suitability to the needs of the customers determines success. Given that technology is complex and that no technology user can last long without support, it becomes a critical differentiator for long-term financial success. (A snide aside: If you want a glaringly good example of lousy customer service, just talk to anyone that uses web hosting from 1and1.com, a company that routinely explores the depths of customer disregard. The horror stories about 1and1.com technical support would make Steven … Continue reading

Micro-hoo?

In the all business, and especially in technology, there are three ways to grow: you can innovate product, you can change the rules of the game (marketing), or you can buy your way up (cash). When I see a hyper-competitive company like Microsoft making a multi-billion dollar plays to buy their way up a market, then I know they failed to innovate or market. And that is the condition in which we find Balmer and Company with their mega bid for Yahoo. We’ll call the merged company-to-be Micro-hoo? Microsoft — despite making the Internet a consumer product by bolting a TCP/IP stack into Windows long ago — was slow to see that former Sun CEO Scott McNealy was right when he said “The network is the computer.” The Internet is the only infrastructure bigger than what Microsoft had already created. As such it is a glorious place to make some … Continue reading